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David's diary: October 2006

Enjoyed a good day out in London yesterday, taking in the National Gallery, plenty of nice but modestly-priced food and drink stops, and a healthy walk by the river to St Katharine Docks and back on the other side. Great weather until the last few minutes of our walk back to Waterloo, but thankfully we'd been sufficiently pessimistic to bring waterproofs. A bit stiff-legged afterwards!

This morning we thought we would keep the ball rolling after our swimming while on holiday, and walked down to Farnham sports centre, bought a discounted block ticket (hopefully they won't go bust like the last pool I bought such a ticket for...) and had a good swim of course - only 20 lengths each but that's good for us! So now just about every muscle in our bodies ache - and this afternoon we decided to finish ourselves off with some DIY: fitting kitchen spotlights that won't trigger epilepsy, and trimming back the hedges in the garden. I wonder if we'll have enough energy left to walk round to house group later?

We managed, but it was a very close "run" thing...

Almost a year ago, I raised the issue of the gaping security hole of Tesco's new self-service checkouts. Guess what hit the national news this morning?

All credit to that company I had the telephone interview with. I asked if they could give some more detailed feedback than their "thanks but no thanks" - so to speak - and today they got back to me. Only three specific comments - one strength and two weaknesses - but enough to be going on with for sure. I would like to have got a similar level of feedback from the other interviews I've had in the past few months, but since they've decided not even to tell me their decisions, it's not really surprising more detail hasn't been forthcoming...

Otherwise, a nice quiet day, mainly spent finishing writing another new game for Darren's website. Hardly groundbreaking stuff, but should be a bit of fun! I probably ought to go to the dump and get rid of our clippings from yesterday afternoon - it's pretty murky outside, but we could do with swapping the cars anyway, so that sounds like a good excuse to go and get a bit of fresh air now.

Been and back, and popped into Homebase on the way home to see if they had any garden benches still, but they didn't - but at least I found a reasonable deal on water filter cartridges so it wasn't a wasted detour. Katy's home now, but any plans of getting out for a bit this afternoon are looking rained off...

Nice weekend so far, getting out for a walk at Frensham yesterday afternoon, breakfast round at Becki and Simon's this morning, and working in the garden this afternoon. Also knocked some webby stuff on the head that I'd promised to do, so generally feeling like I've achieved some things in the last few days - in stark contrast to far too much of the last year. And to make my happiness truly complete, "Taste the difference" jumbo king prawns are back on BOGOF at Sainsburys, so no prizes for guessing what our dinner tonight was based around!

A bit more working in the garden this afternoon - yesterday's lawn mowing was only ever going to be a "first cut" (pun intended) and it was dry enough today to finish it off. We had lunch out with George and Kit as planned, though going to Caffè Macchiato for a change - and enjoying some of the most loaded pizzas and tasty pastas we can remember. Had a wander round the Aldershot shops after that, the most amusing moment finding brass house numbers at the pound shop: OK so long as you didn't need anything other than zeros. Even binary was out...

Today I've been tackling my personal website. I did warn you, and it broke for a while, didn't it? And now it's moved, but if you're reading this, you've obviously found it again - or are reading it "in another place" so to speak...

Mainly having a "day off" today, well it's Katy's day off anyway, so it made sense - and we didn't get the best night's sleep anyway thanks to a massive surprise thunderstorm that rumbled on for seven or eight hours including some claps immediately over the house. But we've been and had our weekly swim, even if the weather was still too touch and go to walk down this time, so we did a few extra lengths to compensate. No house group tonight thanks to our hosts having gone down with the flu, but we're seeing what else we can organise...

That something else being a nice evening round at Matthew and Helen's with lots of pizza and salad - and a bottle and a half of wine. It's proving a bit of a slow process settling in at Vineyard, being a much larger church than either of us are really used to. However, thanks to the focus on house groups as the very core of the church community, we have managed to form a few good relationships already, making times like last night so much easier to organise informally.

But it's also a blessing for my relationship with Katy in an oblique way: when I moved down, Katy had lots of connections already and I was the "outsider", but now we're both in the same boat really. Of course Katy always realised my predicament and helped loads, but there's nothing like having to work through things like this together - and although it's slow progress, it's worth it!

Up bright and early because we're expecting a delivery from Homebase sometime today, and from experience these things tend to be earlier rather than later, especially at quiet times of year such as this. But that did mean I was up too early to intelligently place an order for a CD I want, accidentally submitting a delivery address from years ago. Thankfully I managed to get through to the call centre in India before it was despatched, but it was a close run thing...

Last night we decided to "downgrade" our Freeview recorder. For several months we've been beta-testing a 160GB hard disk and firmware updated in order to support that capacity. Since Inverto have now publicly released the firmware in question - and indeed withdrawn previous versions - against the better advice of the testers involved, we can safely assume that the beta phase is over. Why downgrade though, if they're not asking for their kit back? Although the test was by no means a failure, it introduced sufficient additional problems - most notably the inability of the unit to handle the extra heat from the new disk whilst remaining quiet in operation, and question marks over the power supply rating - to persuade us we were better off with the old set-up. Silent bliss!

Yesterday's delivery from Homebase arrived only about twenty minutes after the time Katy had predicted, so we didn't have to make sure someone was around all day. Consequently we have a nice new garden bench to liven up our patio, and were able to sit and gaze into the infinity of the starry sky in the evening.

My mad panic to get through to CD-WOW's customer services yesterday morning seems to have been a bit unnecessary though, with my re-submitted order still stated as being "pending despatch", as it had been all along - though I think I've received items before they have got round to updating that in the past so goodness knows. I'm fairly confident they're got the right delivery address now, anyway, once I had clarified that our county is Surrey, not Furry. Gotta love call centres! It certainly seems that their order processing is remarkably manual for such a big retailer - with the inability to cancel or amend orders on-line being just one symptom of that - but I guess if it works for them... And they're still better than their rivals play.com when all is said and done.

Today we've had Rachel, Mark and Daniel round for lunch, to celebrate Mark's forthcoming birthday, and we all took a wander into town. It's good now Daniel is getting a bit older, because in the past it was normally quite exhausting enough for all concerned for them to visit with him for an hour or so at the most, but the last couple of times they've spent half the day with us and it's worked out fine. Still bags too much energy, just wish we could have some!

A bit weary now, but there's nothing else we've really got to do today. We've been out with Jo and Ian for a yummy oriental buffet lunch (no prizes for guessing where, needless to say), and got whizzy with the power drill, putting up some heavy duty hooks in the garage for our larger garden tools. I've just put what will hopefully turn out to have been just about the final touches to a website I've been putting together for a friend of ours, and can now rest...

Monday... All quiet, but at least I got a nice cheque in the post, something it would be good to arrange to happen more often! Finally cancelled my MBNA credit card: I discovered that contrary to what I thought they were in fact the source of our recent silent calls from withheld international numbers, and any company that is so brazen in circumventing the law and apparently is the biggest single financier of Dubya can say bye-bye to my business. Alas my Alliance & Leicester credit card is technically an MBNA one also, but at least in that case it looks like they've been persuaded to market slightly more responsibly, with only one book of the infamous credit card cheques to sully the bank's name. The lady I spoke to was friendly enough and asked no questions - though did of course try and persuade me to take an extra special low-interest loan - but I expect my account had a black mark next to it after the ear-bashing I gave to one of her foreign colleagues the other day so perhaps they weren't so sorry to see me go.

Bah, just went into town to pick up a blood test envelope - we'd popped in at the end of last week and they said it would be ready by yesterday, but needless to say, today there was no record of it. As it turns out, they were actually able to issue one on the spot - so why not on Friday? Though of course since they've mislaid the associated letter, I couldn't remember exactly which tests were required nor who the results were supposed to go to... Hey ho. Still, at least I got a nice big cheque paid in at the bank, though even then there was an awkward moment when the lady asked if I had made a loan enquiry - errm, no, I hadn't, so I do hope no-one's trying to fraudulently do so using my name!

Hmph, we ordered a second-hand book the other day, as written by Katy's great aunt who narrowly survived the infamous Laconia sinking during the Second World War. Nothing heard from the seller for several days, then an email yesterday advising us that the order had been cancelled, with four reasons suggested:

  • It may have been previously sold and not yet removed from our database
  • The book was sold to a walk-in customer in the bookseller's store
  • There may have been a previous hold on the book
  • The book was misplaced but the bookseller did not realize it was missing until they tried to locate it

We know exactly which of those possibilities is most likely the case...

Anyway, a bit annoying, but at least we know there are copies of it around.

Not too bad a day otherwise, and we have already tracked down an alternative source for that book - perhaps at an even better price. We went swimming this morning as has become customary for Wednesdays, and although we managed no more lengths than previous weeks, what we did we managed to do in significantly less time than before. Nice fiver-a-head curry at the Balti Hut afterwards, and BLTs for tea, with a generally chilled afternoon in between. We enjoy Wednesdays!

Oh, and fitting a new loo seat was my practical DIY man-about-the-house type achievement of the day. The old one was too chunky to stay up properly, which for a gentleman can be a problem. The risk of injury is now much reduced!

Surreal dream time! I can't remember the context at all, but I was unexpectedly dragged along to a (mercifully free) James Blunt gig. Everyone was heckling, but he redeemed himself by breaking into song with an acoustic version of the Lord of the Rings spoof They're taking the hobbits to Isengard. Beautiful!

MBNA are being marginally more efficient than CD-WOW, which a modest surprise. As I you know, I cancelled my MBNA "platinum" credit card the other day, and their confirmation letter arrived today. Amusingly, not only does it ask me to destroy the card (which our shredder enjoyed), but also to destroy any credit card cheques. What, you mean all 241,895 of them they sent me over the years?

CD-WOW, on the other hand... Well with no obvious action on shipping my CD, I dropped them a line to ask when it might get sent, and it turns out that the CD is a particularly "specialist" one, so is proving a little more difficult to source than expected. But they've taken my payment in the meantime anyway. Hmm, I still prefer their customer service to play.com's, and they are generally quicker delivering, but I can't say I'm too impressed with either right now.

After our resounding (lack of) success at the Ryde course, we decided we'd go pitching-and-putting again this afternoon, this time at Frimley Lodge Park. We even managed to get some holes in four this time, and Katy only beat me by four strokes over the nine holes. We're definitely improving, and me faster than Katy I think - perhaps next time I might even beat her? All good fun, anyway!

This weekend we've been to visit a man in a dress and his family - no, not a wizard but a curate. I'd not seen Gavin, Lucy and their daughters for well over four years and Katy hadn't met them at all. But needless to say everyone got on really well, and we all had a nice walk/cycle in the park during the one gap in the lousy weather. The two girls had of course grown up alarmingly and had no memory of me, but so long as we don't leave it another four years until we see them all again there should be no repeat of that! Good weekend, but tiring!

Oh, we went on a small detour to Lepe Beach after visiting our friends. Well we thought the rain might ease off a bit - how wrong we were! - and we needed some fresh air. Five minutes in a howling gale and horizontal drizzle was more than enough though! Atmospheric for sure and perhaps we will go back another time... Jolly wet journey home after that, with some impressive tsunamis crossing the central reservation of the A31, but we were home safe and sound in good time.

That second-hand book we ordered arrived over the weekend, and is a nice little hardback edition, which was a pleasant surprise. It was a little galling paying over half as much for P&P from Woking as for the book itself, but in the end it came to the same price as we were prepared to pay to the previous dealer, so we can't grumble too much and the service was friendly and exemplary throughout.

Aren't "complimentary" and "complementary" thoroughly stupid words? I know the difference in theory, but boy can it get confusing in practice:

For many years, I've laughed at cheaply-produced takeaway leaflets offering "complimentary garlic bread with every pizza" or whatever - but it turns out they've been correct all along! In mitigation, I believe pizza isn't complete without some accompanying garlic bread, so maybe we're both right in our way...

Silly language, sometimes.

Nice try, recruiter person. But if you had actually looked at my CV before contacting me, you would have seen that I've just left EDS so would hardly be looking to go straight back, like a dog to its vomit. Though in fairness you didn't know that the precise team you were suggesting me for was one that had already rejected me because I came across a mite jaded at having been messed around for the previous seven months by the company in general, and for a couple of months specifically by them. I know EDS is a "magnet" in the IT world - the number of people I know who have served time there is alarming, it almost seems to be like a kind of purgatory for anyone seeking IT heaven - but I've done my stint now thank you, and I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than work for them again before hell freezes over - at least in their defence division.

Katy's had today off work, unusually, because she's got a long day up in London tomorrow. So we've enjoyed a nice Tuesday together, including breakfast out at Badshot Lea. Mmm, very yummy! Tomorrow I am on son-in-law duty, particularly to discuss broadband options, since Katy's parents' ISP is slowly dying it seems.

Fear not, I'm still alive, just my website's a bit in limbo at the moment while I get ready to hopefully launch a major new version in the next few days - so I'm a bit reluctant to add too much to the old one now! Oh, and for the benefit of Monochrome readers, I'm taking an indefinite breather for various reasons. Further, this diary may not be accessible via Monochrome for very much longer.

Life's not bad, all in all. Still no job, but I'm beginning to get a bit of a handle on what I value, and I have a hunch I might not be waiting too long now. A friend recently said God had specifically told her I had a good job coming my way very soon, and - given her track record - I completely believe her.

Anyway, I'd better get a move on because we've got Katy's mum coming round in a short while. Katy's parents have decided - after incredibly poor service over the last few weeks - to pull the plug on their ISP. But since they're not even able even to log on to cancel or switch to an alternative, they need our help!

Phew, well we got there in the end with ordering Katy's parents' broadband. But my did PlusNet make it as difficult as possible. The application form's simple enough, but the issue that threw the spanner into the works was their referral system, whereby we get fifty pence off our monthly bill for every month that they subscribe. The trouble was, when we got to the confirmation screen, it had already decided that some other random company was doing the referring and not us. We tried again, in case we'd missed something, and it was exactly the same. So we phoned their support line, and as well as something about clearing the browser cache and so on, the bod suddenly got into a panic because the username we were applying for had already been taken and it shouldn't have let us get that far, so we should start again with a new username. That we did, and ran into exactly the same problem again. So on to the phone again, getting someone different, who explained that we needed to clear cookies as well, because some reseller site of theirs rather aggressively hijacks referrer cookies such that no subsequent referrer can get a look-in. But, more to the point, he also told us that the original username we'd applied for was available after all. So we went through the whole rigmarole one more time, and hey presto it all worked perfectly fine, and this morning the order has progressed nicely.

So there are two issues here: an ultimately minor one that the first chap I spoke to obviously really didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but the second more worrying issue is that their referral scheme is flawed if a random company can hijack it like that such that anyone who has ever visited a site with one of their banners on it is then unable to select any other referrer without going into browser options no-one should ever really need to touch. I think I ought to raise a ticket about this, because the rogue referrer in question will be making stacks of money at the expense of people not observant enough to spot that the last line of the final order confirmation isn't right - or not patient enough to go through the process as many times as we did!

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